Saturday, 27 August 2016

talking to mum about stumperies

I was whimpering as usual about my massive jungle (the big bed, about 4m square and  a monster to weed or keep under any control at all really) and my mum suggested I replace it with a stumpery. That spring they'd seen a great one during a recent National Trust garden visit to Sizergh Castle:

Sizergh Castle, Cumbria. Floral display in the new 'stumpery'.

It does look rather nice, but fewer ferns than I expected!

In my mind I saw a huge mass of chopped off tree trunks from what used to be trees, and at the centre of each, hollowed out spaces full of smart ferns, fancy hostas and other suitably shady princesses, like a chopped off forest. Mum set me right. The stumps were brought in, donated from a local bypass, and for the proper stumpery aesthetic you don't put them in the ground right way up, they go in upside down, so you can coo over the exotic shapes of the roots.

As the fascination with the grotesque and the creative use of construction byproducts suggest, stumperies are one of the odd children of the industrial revolution, created by Victorian worthies with a mania for fern collecting. Presumably, one walked through the gully, then the grotto, then emerged into the stumpery, all the while explaining how much soil/stone/trees you had to move to make that happen, and absent-mindedly stroking your fob-watch.

I do have a certain amount of buried wood in my back garden anyway (old fence posts, some random logs, the old house number sign) as we're in the range for Lesser Stag Beetles, and I've seen one or two on the patio, but I've not really made a feature of it. This clip of Joe Swift creating a stumpery in 2010 for Gardener's World really illustrates why.

"Everybody has a bit of their garden they don't quite know what to do with," he begins. Er, no, Joe. The problem is more that I have three plans for every space.

Still, here's a useful link to a nice technical piece for creating your own stumpery for when and if I change my mind. After all, you can go quite small:

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Passion Flower Frenzy!

The usual competition has begin, to see how far the passion flower vine will go this year. Seven years ago we transplanted from the cosy gravel box behind my my fiance's flat and since then it has cried, thrived, died, sulked, lived it large, shot for the sky, disappeared for months, and reappeared from somewhere else entirely. We have a pergola because of this vine. It grows in multiple places now. It outcomepetes the Douglas Pine, the Grape Vine, Batchelor's Buttons and even the Cherry Laurel from next door.

passion flower

The fruits don't taste great, but it's a beauty.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

the study garden

The joke goes; it's not a word, but a sentence. The joke is about marriage, but the word in my mind is dissertation. I've been studying, part time, for the past few years, in a work-related topic. I have one thing to do before this becomes my master's degree. Just one word. Dissertation.

It's modular, so I could have changed it back to a DipCert, but at the time I thought of doing that, it resisted, like a plant that needed pruning, but not at that time of year. This summer I'm now looking at a vast, woody monster, and thinking; well, perhaps I've actually got a tree.

So I've signed up to do it, with the sinking feeling that it will get in the way of everything else. I remember watching a film, a long time ago, about a woman doing a dissertation. The film is called The Lost Language of Cranes. You think, when the film starts, that it'll be about Cranes. But actually, it's about cranes.

the statue of the unknown artist

She's writing a dissertation about a neglected child, who had been born and grown up in isolation, opposite a building site. We don't hear much about this in the film. The film is about some gay men, having family dramas. But anyway, back to the child. The child's only significant long-term interactions was watching the cranes (Though he must have been fed? Was it just a thought experiment? A metaphor? Is there a case at the heart of this?). When they (social services, one presumes) found him, he couldn't talk, but would imitate the mechanical swinging motions of the cranes, speaking the only language he had been exposed to.

The woman doing the dissertation is annoying and passive. Maybe she's a metaphor, too. Like I said, it was a story about gay men. But anyway, she gives up the dissertation. Why? asks the man the story is about. She answers "It was getting in the way, of life, of everything."

So, yes. I'll probably have less time to spend gardening over the next year....

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

cast aside

I think someone may have tried to throw a wedding bouquet into the river from a car. Ouch.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

succulent successes

My front windowsill has been enjoying the weather so much that the Stinky Feet plant bloomed. The smell isn't overpowering, thankfully - you have to push your nose right up against it to smell a little taint, like overripe cheese.

My mysterious Ikea Plant has been having a great time of it, too. In fact it got so effusively overgrown (and exciting to the kitten) that I had to cut it a fringe!

Thursday, 11 August 2016

art plants

The RA Open Exhibition, the show you can go to and fantasise about owning art. I was on the look out for the gardens in the art, the green in the frames, the flowers in the saleroom. What would you like to own today?

cauli cast concrete plosion people

Cast concrete cauliflorets? Or a very fancy cold frame?

lost child The wrong dogs

Report-me sculptures, available in NSPCC and RSPCA varieties?

Dark matters RA Summer Exhibition

Challenging garden furniture, or a curious indoors/outdoors sloping table?

RA Summer Exhibition RA Summer Exhibition

Or for the full-on Ballardian vibe, tiny crystalline trees, or a crystalline explosion for your water-feature?

As usual, we bought nothing.

Friday, 5 August 2016


From time to time I feel I should really erect a pavilion in my back garden. A bit like the the long term plan of making bunting out of all of the fabric I'm too sentimental to throw away, it's probably never going to happen.

If I do make one, though, it will be:

  • Sheltering, unless elemental exposure is part of the point
  • Colourful,either in the materials it uses or light projected onto it
  • Glittering, glistening or sparkling, not fussy which
  • Comfortable to sit under
The Serpentine's pavilion this year is none of those things. White, dripping, boxy, bright, weird, and, yes, beautiful but sitting under it on a gloomy day is wet, draughty and dark.

serpentine pavilion 2016 serpentine pavilion 2016
serpentine pavilion 2016 serpentine pavilion 2016

We didn't linger.

Thursday, 4 August 2016